Drug Research Center



Turkey: Transition from manufacture-driven to innovation-driven economy

According to the Turkish Government science & technology position document, coined as “Vision 2023”, discovery of new drugs has become a strategic goal with high priority to boost the innovative research that is badly needed to overcome the middle-income trap. Besides, the newly reformed health care system with skyrocketing costs urges the authorities to increase the research destined to give innovative drugs into the domestic market at a reasonable price. All these developments make the pharmaceutical research and development an attractive area where talented people from all disciplines might pour in provided that it is organized efficiently. Amid an ever-increasing global competition, the process of drug discovery and development has undergone a dramatic transformation over the last decade driven largely by tremendous achievements in molecular biology and genomics. Global pharmaceutical industry is facing the challenge against the expiration of patent rights for blockbuster drugs, the exorbitant costs to get a new molecular entity approved, the high attrition rates, as well as the pressing demand for personalized therapeutics.

As an emerging country with an unsaturated market, yet with sophisticated healthcare services and a mature pharmaceutical manufacturing base, Turkey provides an invaluable opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry to engage in drug research and development activities with global impact. A large pool of researchers has been trained nationwide in the last two decades with the contribution of either national or international academic institutions and the research output increased so that, the ranking of the country in the number of publications in peer reviewed journals has risen from 44th to 18th in 2010. Research environment is largely regulated in line with EU directives and human and animal subjects are covered by legal protection. Thanks to recent emphasis on innovative research and new government incentives, there is now a beneficial environment where more collaboration is possible between academia and industry that will improve the efficiency of the drug development process. Government funding agencies are increasing the emphasis on translational research and offer new funding schemes. Universities are also increasing their efforts in translational science, while continuing to invest in basic medical research. Unfortunately, the research and development capacity of the domestic private sector is still largely lacking. Perhaps, guidance is needed from global companies that have recognized the emergence of personalized medicine and have begun working on "omics" platforms to deliver personalized medicine. Coupling of diagnostic tests with new therapeutics has gained interest recently and identification of the patient sub-populations will benefit from such kind of a treatment. To include all of these factors, it is necessary to harness the expertise of the distinct groups and to be innovative in focused efforts. Koç University Drug Research Center addresses this need and aims to integrate all drug research activities among the different colleges and schools of the university and brings in a full scale of collaboration with the industry and healthcare service providers.

Koç University: Commitment to Health Sciences Research

Founded in 1993, Koç University is positioned to become a world-class research university and enjoys a reputation of being a prime institution with international acclamation. Koç University is ranked 31st in entire world, among universities younger than 50 by THE (Times Higher Education) rankings. Conveniently located on a hill overlooking the Black Sea entrance of the Bosphorus, Koç University Campus is the home of some of the top quality core research facilities in Turkey and incorporates centers such as Surface Science and Technology Center (KUYTAM) and Center for Computational Science and Bioinformatics. Founding of a School of Medicine in 2009 and the establishment of the new state-of-the art Health Sciences Campus with a 400-bed hospital in Topkapi District bring a full set of research capacity unparalleled in Turkey from bioinformatics to clinical research. With an overall investment of more than $100 million, Koç University is now gaining the ability to support a major effort in drug discovery and development and reach the level needed to translate basic research into clinical practice. In addition, headquarters of all pharmaceutical companies represented in Turkey and their production facilities are within a 50 km perimeter of Koç University campus. Administrative offices of the drug research center are located at the heart of the business center, in Şişli District.

Koç University Drug Research Center: Innovation and Collaboration

The KU Drug Research Center was founded as a centralized facility and core staff, to help collaborators translate basic science into drug discovery programs and has embraced a two-fold strategy in creating an environment for the drug discovery and development:

  1. BulletCollaboration through integrated activities across internal colleges, schools, centers and institutes, along with collaborations with other academic centers, government agencies and commercial partners. Many of the specific functions of the drug discovery and development process are distributed across the various centers and the School of Medicine, Colleges of Engineering and Natural Sciences, as well as the Law School and College of Administrative and Social Sciences.

  2. BulletInnovation by developing and practicing new approaches and technologies to complement the ongoing discovery processes.

KU Drug Research Center will combine computational and experimental methods to elucidate, design, validate and apply new pharmacological concepts and strategies to the development and use of therapeutics and diagnostics. KU Drug Research Center will provide an integrated "systems" approach assisted by high-throughput screening techniques to elucidate drug mechanisms of action during discovery, target identification and in clinical trials. Such an endeavor will incorporate the ongoing research for the design and synthesis of novel, drug-like chemical scaffolds, and biologics to address the therapeutic needs. In addition, computational chemistry and molecular biophysics studies to predict and to define target proteins, druggable sites, potential binding affinities will be among the major activities of the center.

The KU Drug Research Center will accept collaborative projects in any therapeutic area where the collaborator has a significant interest and commitment to the program, while focusing internal efforts on cancer, stem cell research, neuroscience and emerging infectious diseases. There is a major commitment to the use of experimental disease models, as well as human-derived cell/engineered tissue models early in the discovery process.